Category Archives: Elections

Elections and elected officials of Kerrville and Kerr County, Texas.

FINAL RESULTS: City of Kerrville Charter Amendments

The final results of the Charter Amendment Election have been posted. Approximately 2,750 voters cast a ballot either by mail, in early voting, or on election day — a turnout of approximately 18% of registered city voters (compared with approximately 20% turnout for the May citywide election).

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Turnout on the rise compared to previous Texas Constitutional Amendment Election

Elections are underway in Kerr County and around the state for the 2019 Texas Constitutional Amendment Elections. Early voting began on Monday and continues through November 1. See image below for location and hours of early voting.

Kerrville voters also have the opportunity to vote on several proposed amendments to the City Charter, and that local election may be helping to boost turnout this year.

After three full days of early voting (Monday through Wednesday) Kerr County Elections officials have recorded a total of 386 in-person voters for the City Charter Amendment Election. For the 2017 constitutional amendment election, which included voters throughout Kerr County and not just in the City of Kerrville, only 96 votes had been cast after three days of early voting.

(These totals do not include mail-in ballots.)

Turnout of 2017 Texas Constitutional Election versus 2019 City Charter/Texas Constitutional Election (citywide only)

Although it’s still very early, the trend is encouraging. However, when compared to voter turnout in the 2019 Citywide election for two council seats, the totals are less impressive. After three days of early voting in the May elections, voter turnout numbered 1,053.

Take note of those early voting dates and times (above) and encourage your friends and family to visit the polls!

References

All data used in this article was obtained from the Kerr County Elections Department.

Upcoming Election: Charter Amendments

On November 5, Kerrville voters will have an opportunity to vote on several proposed amendments to the city’s charter. This year’s election will also include statewide constitutional amendments, which will be on the ballot at the same time. But in this article, we’ll focus on the city charter, what it is, why it matters, and what these proposed changes will mean to you as a citizen of Kerrville.

What is the Charter?

The State of Texas sets out laws, rules, and guidelines for how an incorporated municipality (like Kerrville) is allowed operate, but it also leaves tremendous flexibility in some areas, and those topics are of utmost importance when it comes to a city’s charter. Kerrville’s current charter can be viewed here: https://library.municode.com/tx/kerrville/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTICH

The charter can be thought of as the city’s constitution — more or less. It sets out the rules and policies for how the city is governed, including matters such as:

  • Annexation & Condemnation
  • Qualifications and duties of Council members
  • Council rules and procedures
  • Elections, Recalls, and Referendums
  • Rules and duties of the city manager and city attorney
  • Financial matters
  • Taxation
  • Municipal Courts
  • Boards & Commissions
  • …and much more

The chairman of the Charter Review Committee (which we’ll discuss later), John Harrison, stated it this way: “The City Charter is a document that describes how ‘we the people’ want our city to be operated. We must comply with state law but where the state is not specific we have flexibility at the local level… Whether you want to run for City Council or just to know more about how the city operates, the Charter is one of the first documents a person should read.”

Here’s the first paragraph of our city’s charter, laying out the purpose and principals that guide the document itself:

“We the people of the City of Kerrville, Texas, under the constitution and laws of the State of Texas, in order to secure the benefits of local self-government and to provide for an honest and accountable council-manager government do hereby adopt this Charter and confer upon the City the following powers, subject to the following limitations, and prescribed by the following procedures and government structure. By this action, we secure the benefits of home-rule and affirm the values of representative democracy, professional management, strong leadership, citizen participation, and regional cooperation.”

Article 1, Section 1.01, City of Kerrville Charter

Charter Review Commission

Also set forth in the Charter is the mandate that the document be reviewed at least every five years by a “Charter Review Commission” consisting of seven residents of the City. This body shall, according to the Charter, determine whether any sections require revision, hold a public hearing, propose amendments, and report to City Council. (Ref.: Article XIV, Section 14.06-14.07, City of Kerrville Charter.)

The last time the charter was reviewed was back in 2013, when Council approved eight amendments for the ballot, and all eight were approved by voters.

The mandated review five years later was begun in November 2018 when the Kerrville City Council established the Charter Review Commission (CRC) consisting of seven local residents. The committee included a former council member and mayor, a retired City Secretary, a local attorney, a high school government teacher, and three other citizens that had been intimately involved in local governmental affairs. The commission members included:

  • Brenda Craig
  • Greg Richards
  • Stephen Fine
  • Michael Sigerman
  • John Harrison
  • Karen Yanez
  • Peggy McKay

This commission met at least eight times between February and April, including a public hearing on June 3. All of the meetings were open to the public and were posted in accordance with the Open Meetings Act regulations.

A written report was created by the CRC and presented to Council. That 27-page report, which includes detailed explanations for each change, can be found here: https://www.kerrvilletx.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/3626

The commission made a recommendation to council that 43 amendments be considered. By law, council must approve or decline to forward these proposals to the citizens for a vote. Council approved most of those recommendations in August, and voted to put forth numerous proposed amendments for a citywide election on November 5. (The date was selected to coincide with the statewide constitutional amendment election that is held every two years in odd-numbered years.)

What are the proposed amendments?

“We proposed changes that makes the Charter more readable and easier to understand. Over a six month period, we read, discussed, debated and finally voted on every proposed change. I believe these changes are good for the City and would encourage every citizen to learn about the proposals and support them in November.”

John Harrison, chairman of the CRC

Many of the proposed amendments are clarifying in nature, meaning they don’t make sweeping changes, but rather, they make the intent and language easier to read and comprehend. Some of the more significant proposed amendments include:

  • Add a clause to prevent nepotism
  • Term Limits — restrict council members to no more than three consecutive two-year terms
  • Raise the Stakes for Place 1 and 2 running for mayor — If a councilmember in Place 1 or 2 wants to run for mayor, he/she shall resign from their position regardless of the outcome of the mayor race
  • Require all municipal judges to be licensed attorneys
  • Authorize mayor to create and make appointments to ad hoc committees
  • Allow the city to prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages in residential areas

The proposed amendments are discussed in greater detail in the written report that the CRC presented to Council. However, please note that Council did not authorize each of these amendments, so some of the items in this report will NOT be on the ballot. Regardless, the report provides valuable information about the rationale for each proposed change, and therefore is a useful guide to the voters. See the references section below for more reading material on these amendments.

How will you be affected?

Since many of the amendments are minor, those changes are unlikely to affect your day-to-day life in Kerrville. But many of the other amendments do have ramifications for the way our local government works, and the way the city operates, in general. For instance, we currently don’t have term limits for the mayor or council, and historically, some council members have served for long periods of time. Term limits would, theoretically, increase participation from a larger pool of prospective candidates, providing more diversity in opinion, and less stagnation of thought. This particular amendment could have a lasting impact on our community.

Other changes may seem to be unimportant, but could also have big changes on your local government. We think it’s a good idea for every voter to be come familiar with these proposals and how it could affect the community as a whole.

References

CRC Report: https://www.kerrvilletx.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/3626
Sample Ballot: https://www.kerrvilletx.gov/DocumentCenter/View/34568/Sample-BALLOT-for-Special-Election—Charter-Amendments-11-05-19
Newspaper Notice: https://www.kerrvilletx.gov/DocumentCenter/View/34571/Newspaper-Notice-of-Amendments

Editorial Section

This portion of the article contains the opinions of Kerrville United and this article’s author, Aaron Yates.

Kerrville United supports each of the proposed amendments slated for the November 5 election. We encourage all voters to approve these amendments by voting “FOR” on the ballot. We salute the CRC for doing tedious, but valuable work on this year’s Charter Review.

Voting Information

This year’s Special Election will be held on November 5, 2019, with early voting from October 21 through November 1. All early voting will take place at the Cailloux Theater, but voting locations will be located in different places on Election Day, based on precinct. See the City of Kerrville’s Election Page for more information, and see the graphic below for voting places and times.

You must already be registered to vote to be eligible to cast a ballot this November. The voter registration date has already passed.

Election information as obtained from https://www.kerrvilletx.gov/312/Election on October 16.

Taking the oath: New council members sworn in

Mayor Bill Blackburn (left) congratulates Gary Cochrane (right) as Kim Clarkson (center) looks on. Photo from City of Kerrville.

History was made on Tuesday evening as the oaths of office were administered to new council members Gary Cochrane and Kim Clarkson. After Clarkson was sworn in, Kerrville became, for the first time, led by a majority-female City Council. Mayor Blackburn congratulated the new civil servants and thanked the outgoing council members Voelkel and Baroody. Soon after the pomp and circumstance, the new council sat for their first meeting.

Each outgoing and incoming council member delivered a short speech. Voelkel reminisced about the positive and funny moments from his two years of service. Baroody gave advice to incoming council members and promised that he is not going anywhere, and will continue to be active in the community.

Incoming Place 1 council member Gary Cochrane promised that he would be an independent-thinking and thorough council person. Newly installed Place 2 council member Kim Clarkson gave an impassioned speech regarding the importance of service. See each of the speeches in the full council video below.

A small celebration was held in the lobby following the short ceremony. The council reconvened at 6:00 PM for their first regular meeting. The full city council meeting can be viewed below.

2019 Voter Analysis

Now that we’ve had a few days to digest the results of the 2019 election, we can start identifying trends and drawing conclusions about how well our community came out to vote for this year’s city council races. All of the data used herein is drawn from publicly available sources.

Here are some of the things we wanted to know…

  • What was the turnout figure?
  • What age groups are voting?
  • How many first-time voters did we have this year?

Let’s examine each of these topics one at a time.

Turnout

As we mentioned in our previous article about this election, the overall voter turnout in this election was approximately 19.6% of registered voters. The quantity of ballots cast in this election is the third-largest in Kerrville history, and this turnout number is triple the low point of 2013. We have seen a steady increase in turnout since 2013.

Total ballots cast in city council races since 2008.

Age

One of the misunderstandings about Kerrville’s population is that it’s not overwhelmingly skewed towards the older folks among us. In fact, only about 30% of the population is over the age of 62. And for our purposes in this article, about 38.6% of the population is over the age of 55. Those from 18 to 54 years of age make up about 38.8%. So as we compare voter numbers, keep in mind that the 18-55 population is nearly numerically identical to the over 55 population. (US Census Factfinder)

But as we look at registered voters, we can see that the majority of voters are, in fact, over 55. There were 15,455 registered voters in April 2019, and of those, 56% were over the age of 55. Only 44% were under 55. So we can already see a disparity between the age distribution of Kerrville’s overall population versus the age distribution of registered voters.

Histogram of registered voters going into the 2019 election.

But wait, there’s more. When we look at the number of folks who actually voted in 2019, we find that 79% of voters were over the age of 55. Only 21% of voters were under the age of 55. So we see a large disparity between not only the general population versus the registered ages, but we also see that the vote is heavily shifted to the older end of the spectrum.

Histogram of voters’ ages in the 2019 City Council election.

In the graph shown above, we see that the vast majority of voters are between the ages of 65 and 85. In fact, about 57% of voters are within that age bracket.

In the last age graph below, we compare the percentage of these age groups in the general population versus the ages in the voting population. Orange is the general population, and blue is the voting population.

Comparing age groups in population of Kerrville versus age groups that voted in 2019.

This last chart gives us our main “age” takeaway… Older voters (over 55) are much more likely to vote than younger voters. The group with the highest probability of voting is the 70-79 year olds. The age group least likely to vote is the 18-29 year old group.

  • Voter turnout for under 55 voters: 9.4%
  • Voter turnout for over 55 voters: 27.6%

First-Time Voters

First, let’s make a distinction. For our purposes, we’re defining “first-time voter” as someone who did not cast a ballot in the 2017 nor the 2018 citywide election, but they did cast a vote in the 2019 election. For this May’s election, there were 578 voters that met that criteria. 578 voters did not vote in 2017 or 2018, but cast a ballot in 2019.

These “new” voters made up 19% of the total number of ballots cast in 2019.

This group of voters is somewhat younger than the average voter, but their geography is widely distributed. In other words, they are younger overall, but they do not reside in one specific area of town.

Takeaways

  • Local elections are dominated by the older age groups.
  • Younger voters register in high numbers, but don’t actually vote very often.
  • The older the voter, the more likely she is to cast a ballot, until reaching age 80, when the likelihood begins to decrease.
  • This election energized 578 voters that had not cast a ballot in a few years. This group made up nearly 1/5 of the ballots cast.
  • If all voices are to be heard in local elections, voter turnout efforts must continue.

Sources

Written by Aaron Yates, founder of Kerrville United

Election winners: Cochrane and Clarkson

As the warm and sunny election day turned into election evening, a large group of supporters huddled around the nearest laptop waiting for the early results to post to the Kerr County Elections website. Seven o’clock came and went, but results were not immediately forthcoming. (Traditionally the county releases the results of early voting immediately after the polls close on election day.) Then, as an uncharacteristically emotional outburst from Cochrane echoed through the room, the outcome was evident without even seeing the numbers. Candidates Gary Cochrane and Kim Clarkson each received a pair of telephone calls from the City Secretary’s office — the first offering relief (with early voting numbers) and the second offering confirmation (final tallies). Gary Cochrane and Kim Clarkson had won the election.

Unofficial results for 2019 City Council Elections.

671 votes were cast on election day, bringing the total turnout in this election to 3,021 — the first time an “odd-year” election has broken 3,000. With approximately 15,400 registered voters in the City of Kerrville, this means that about 20% of the registered voters cast a ballot this time around. This is a significant increase over the same election two years ago. In 2017, only 2,153 votes were cast, yielding a turnout of just 14.4%.

This year’s total of 3,021 earns the distinction of being the third largest turnout in Kerrville election history, behind 2018 and 2016, respectively. This year earns the honor of the highest-ever odd-year election total.

This year’s 671 ballots on election day represented only about 22% of the overall vote. The election day impact has shrunk significantly since 2017, with a higher percentage of the voters casting an early ballot.

Daily vote totals for 2019 election compared to 2018 and 2017.

Cochrane and Clarkson held a comfortable lead in the early results that included seven days of in-person early voting plus mail-in ballots. When the early numbers arrived, Clarkson held a 63-37% advantage while Cochrane led with a 64-36% margin. But Baroody and Garcia did narrow the margin some on election day. Saturday voters went 52% for Cochrane and Clarkson, with 48% going to Baroody and Garcia, narrowing that early lead by a few points.

Notably in this election, the two pairs of candidates ran their campaigns in alignment, and the results suggest that voters understood these relationships and voted accordingly. Just a 1% difference separated the winning margins in the two races — Cochrane with 61% and Clarkson with 60% after all votes were counted.

Reactions

After the final results were posted, Mario Garcia made his way to Kim Clarkson’s election night headquarters and offered his congratulations. However, as of Sunday morning, Gary Cochrane has not received any communications from George Baroody.

Baroody did offer something of a compliment to Cochrane as he told the Hill Country Community Journal,

“Gary Cochrane came to me after the polls closed and shook hands with me. And I agree it was a good race. It was nice to have it be a clean thing. The issues were the issues and I still believe a big portion of the community was not heard,” Baroody said. “I would like to keep the issues at the forefront, and continue to advocate for the people. I was proud to serve for two years, and will continue to serve my community, however that may be.”

Clarkson, Cochrane winners in city election. Hill Country Community Journal. May 4, 2019.

Garcia’s first foray into the political arena did not succeed as he’d hoped, but he remained positive, telling the Hill Country Community Journal,

“I felt we ran a good clean campaign. I was there until the polls closed. Right now I just feel really numb. But I went to congratulate Kim Clarkson at her party tonight and told her to work hard,” Garcia said. “She said to stay close and to bring any issues to her. I enjoyed the campaign and my goal was to bring a higher voter turnout and run my campaign with humility and civility – the good old decent way, sort of the Andy Griffith way.”

Clarkson, Cochrane winners in city election. Hill Country Community Journal. May 4, 2019.

What’s Next

Kim Clarkson and Gary Cochrane celebrate their victories on election night 2019.

The results will be canvassed and the newest council members will be sworn in at 5:00 PM on Tuesday, May 14, just ahead of a 6:00 PM regular city council meeting where they will immediately begin their duties on the dais.

In the mean time, current council members Vincent Voelkel and George Baroody will continue to serve in Place 1 and Place 2, respectively.

Takeaways

  • Kim Clarkson and Gary Cochrane win seats on council with about 60% of the vote
  • Turnout is up 40% from the same election 2017
  • Turnout lags behind 2018 by approximately 1,000 votes
  • Election day’s impact is shrinking as more voters turn out for early voting
  • Overall voter turnout was 20% of registered voters

References

Complete Election Results from Kerr County

Hill Country Community Journal article

Early voting dominated by older voters

Part of Kerrville United’s mission is to engage with younger voters and encourage them to cast a ballot in local elections. But historically, Kerrville’s elections are dominated by older voters, and the turnout among younger voters is quite low. So far, this year’s election holds true to that trend, with older voters showing up in far greater percentages than younger voters.

For our purposes today, we’ll divide voters into two groups — under 55, and 55 and older. The city’s electorate (registered voters) is made up of 44% younger voters (under 55) and 56% older voters (55 years and older). The average voter age is 55, and the median age is 58.

However, the voters this year consist of 82% older voters and just 18% younger voters. The average voter age in this year’s election, so far, is 67 years of age, and the median age is 71. Younger voters are vastly outnumbered. More votes have been cast by folks 80 and over than have been cast by folks under 55, even though there are 6,863 registered voters under 55 compared to just 1,901 over 80.

Here is a visual display of that trend. The chart below is a histogram showing the number of registered voters within the City of Kerrville. To the left are the 18-year-olds, and to the right are the oldest voters.

Histogram representing the age of all registered voters in the City of Kerrville as of March 2019.

And the following histogram shows the age distribution of the voters who have cast a ballot so far in 2019. Again, younger voters to the left, and older voters to the right.

Histogram representing the age of all voters who have cast a ballot in early voting or by mail in 2019.

As you can see, the histogram is “skewed right” meaning more older voters are voting than younger voters.

What can we do?

If younger voters wish to have their wants and needs represented on City Council or any other local office, we must energize younger voters to get out and cast a ballot in these local elections. Kerrville United seeks to educate and inform younger voters by presenting news and information on channels where younger voters congregate — social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

In addition to education, the younger voters that do participate must help spread the word and encourage their friends, family, neighbors, and younger community members to get involved.

Takeaways

  • Although overall turnout is on the rise in recent years, turnout among younger voters remains low.
  • So far during this election, 82% of voters are over the age of 55.
  • More votes have been cast by folks 80 and over than have been cast by folks under 55.
  • Younger voters must engage if they wish for their voices to be collectively heard.

References

We relied upon daily turnout numbers and voter demographics supplied to us by the Kerr County Elections department. These source materials will be made available to the public after the election.

Early voting draws to a close

Tuesday was the last day to vote early by appearance. Polls closed at 5:00 PM Tuesday on the seventh day of voting at the Cailloux Theater. The last chance to cast a ballot will be this Saturday, May 4, from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM at the same Cailloux Theater in Kerrville.

Why don’t we report early voting numbers?

Kerrville’s voter turnout in citywide elections is notoriously and embarrassingly low — historically speaking. Although turnout has been on the rise for the past couple of years, we believe that reporting voter turnout numbers may dissuade certain voters. During the election, we only wish to encourage voters and increase turnout. Reporting the numbers can wait until after election day! We will post the turnout numbers and do an analysis of voter demographics.

Election Day Activities

Voting begins at 7 AM on Saturday, May 4. Polls close at 7:00 PM. What happens then?

Approx. 7:00-8:00 PM – Election officials will release a tally of early voters and mail-in ballots. These early voting percentages tend to be similar to election day ratios. These early voting totals are released online at Kerr County Elections page.

Approx. 8:00-9:00 PM – Election officials will release the final totals and a winner will be announced. Mail-in ballots are accepted up until (and including) election day, so the final total may vary slightly, but typically, a winner can be announced with a great deal of certainty once these final tallies are released.

Later… Candidates traditionally release a statement to reporters and supporters at the various election day gatherings. Results will be posted here on Kerrville United!

Post-Election

After election day, final votes are tallied, including mail-in ballots. Typically a special city council meeting is called to canvas the results and swear in the new council members. This meeting date has not been officially posted as of this writing.

The new city council will hold its first regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, May 14.